UAE's planned Rock Stadium, built into mountainside, wins architecture award in London

A unique design for a 40,000-seater football stadium carved into the side of Jebel Hafeet wins the Best Future Building award at an international architectural competition

The plan is to build it into the side of Jebel Hafeet, near the UAE/Oman border. Courtesy MZ Architects
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ABU DHABI // A unique design for a football stadium carved out of a mountainside in Al Ain has won the award for Best Future Building at an international architectural competition in London.

The Rock Stadium is a planned 40,000-seater stadium built into the side of Jebel Hafeet, near the UAE/Oman border.

"We are very proud of this big award, especially when you consider the amazing projects we were up against," said Marwan Zgheib, founder of MZ Architects, the Lebanese firm that designed it.

While developing the idea for the stadium, Mr Zgheib spent three days with a geologist, stone specialist, topographer and a cave expert at the site a few years ago.

"The original thought was to build a stand-alone stadium but, when I saw the site, I knew it would be perfect to carve into the mountain," he said.

Not only was north-south alignment of Jebel Hafeet ideal for the orientation of a football stadium that minimises shadows and glare from the sun, natural materials from the area could be used in the construction.

"The rock and the sand of the site is ideal to use in building and will give a homogeneous look to the stadium with its surroundings, as well as having a minimal impact on the environment," Mr Zgheib said.

Sustainability is one of the key concepts of the Rock Stadium, with the use of excavated material in construction as well as the sunken design limiting the desert sun's impact and cooling costs.

"I think it is the dream of every architect to work on a design which focuses on sustainability through design more than through technology," he added.

The Rock Stadium has already won an architectural award this year and is on the shortlist for three more before the year's end.

"I hope it continues to win and eventually sees the light of day as this project can only be built in this exact location."